05/16/2010 11:00PM

Performance of the Week: Chief of Affairs


The consistent and courageous 2-year-old champion of 2009, Lookin At Lucky, earned a well-deserved victory in last Saturday's Preakness Stakes at Pimlico, but it is an underrated sprinter named Chief of Affairs that receives the "Performance of the Week" trophy.

Chief of Affairs, entered in the inaugural running of the $75,000 James Whitcomb Riley Stakes last Tuesday evening at Indiana Downs, ran quickly, and won the right way for trainer Bret Calhoun. Sent off as the 9-10 favorite in the field of five over a sloppy, sealed racetrack, Chief of Affairs played hardball under jockey Miguel Mena. He rushed up along the inside to duel for the early lead with stakes winner Grand Traverse through flashy fractions of 21.82 seconds and 44.32. Mena kept Chief of Affairs well off the inside on the turn and into the stretch, and Chief of Affairs put Grand Traverse away with three-sixteenths of a mile to run. Chief of Affairs could have been forgiven if the early duel left him leg-weary, but the 4-year-old colt had plenty left in the final eighth to fend off the multiple Grade 2-placed Riley Tucker, a beneficiary of a perfect stalking trip. Chief of Affairs stopped the timer for the six furlongs in 1:08.85 and received a 106 Beyer Speed Figure.

Bred in Texas, Chief of Affairs was entered in the Keeneland September yearling auction in 2007, but was a $6,000 buyback. He sold the following season for $25,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Texas auction for 2-year-olds in training.

Chief of Affairs is by Yonaguska, the dead-heat winner of the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes going seven furlongs at Saratoga as a juvenile of 2000. Trained by D. Wayne Lukas, Yonaguska was a stone-cold sprinter, earning his six lifetime victories at distances ranging from 4 1/2 furlongs to seven furlongs while failing in his three route efforts. Not surprisingly, Yonaguska's best progeny also have excelled at races up to one mile.

Chief of Affairs's dam is the unraced Nureyev mare Jennifer's Affair. Her dam, Aly's Affair (by Colonial Affair), is a placed half-sister to Grade 3 juvenile winner Aly's Alley (more than $900,000 in earnings). The fourth dam, Reigning Countess (by Far North), was a swift Grade 3 sprint winner, while the fifth dam was a multiple stakes winner as well. Other notable names in this female family include Miss Turkana (Grade 3 winner, $508,000 in earnings, dam of two black-type earners); multiple Grade 2 winner Hail Hilarious; the French Group 3 turf winners Grafin and Genovefa; and Palestinian, who placed in all three Triple Crown events in 1949.

Calhoun has made quite a name for himself with sprint performers over the last few seasons. Along with Chief of Affairs, the high-percentage trainer has been represented by sprint stakes winners Chamberlain Bridge, Euroears, Gold Coyote, Mr. Nightlinger, Silver City, Speedacious, Storm Mesa, and others.

Chief of Affairs failed to race at 2, but made quite the impression in his career debut, a statebred maiden special weight on May 2, 2009. Racing six furlongs over a sloppy Lone Star Park track, Chief of Affairs was sent off as the 9-10 favorite in the bulky field of 13 and did not disappoint. Chief of Affairs set a pressured pace from the two path before shrugging off his early challenger entering the turn. He changed leads flawlessly turning for home and simply dominated the field with a final eighth-mile in 11.79, winning by 12 1/2 lengths in 1:09.26 and receiving a 100 Beyer Speed Figure.

After that performance, Calhoun wondered how far his speedy protege would travel. With the Prelude Stakes at Louisiana Downs as a long-term goal, he stretched Chief of Affairs out in distance to 1 1/16 miles for a statebred entry-level allowance race at Lone Star on May 30. Sent off at 1-5 in the field of 10, Chief of Affairs attempted another gate-to-wire gambit but faltered in the final sixteenth, finishing a tiring third. Calhoun tried Chief of Affairs in a one-mile route at Lone Star 20 days later, but the colt again failed to stay, finishing fourth as the 7-10 favorite.

The route experiments didn't pay off, so Calhoun turned Chief of Affairs back in distance for a 5 1/2-furlong race at Lone Star on July 5. Facing Texas-bred allowance runners, Chief of Affairs got back on the beam, clearing to the front and the rail entering the turn and never being threatened while finishing up under a moderate hand ride.

After a three-month layoff, Calhoun tried Chief of Affairs in an open second-level optional claimer going five furlongs on turf at Remington Park. The Yonaguska colt didn't appear to relish the footing, finishing fourth after contesting the early fractions.

Returning to the dirt, Chief of Affairs earned his first stakes win as he took the measure of favored Gold Coyote in the $50,000 Spirit of Texas for statebreds at Sam Houston on Dec. 5. Once again, Chief of Affairs found the front from the two path and wasn't really threatened, drawing off to win by 3 1/2 lengths in 1:09.40. He received a 101 Beyer for his final start at 3, while finishing ahead of two next-out winners.

Chief of Affairs tasted narrow defeat in his first two starts of 2010 over good going, but he earned some black type when a length shy of Cosmic in the $50,000 King Cotton Stakes at Oaklawn on Feb. 5. Calhoun blamed tiring tracks for those losses, and Chief of Affairs blasted off to win his next start over fast going on March 11. That race, an optional claimer at 5 1/2 furlongs, was a good confidence booster for Chief of Affairs. He went straight to the lead from his inside post and was never challenged, receiving a 106 Beyer.

Calhoun gave Chief of Affairs his toughest test to date in the Grade 3 Count Fleet Handicap, and the colt responded with an excellent performance. He once again made the front and drew off to a big lead in upper stretch only to be caught late by favored Custom for Carlos. Chief of Affairs received a 105 Beyer and showed that he could be competitive in legitimate stakes company.

Chief of Affairs boasts a record of 8-5-2-1 in sprint races, is now a multiple stakes winner, and is proven over both fast and sloppy footing. He's earned triple-digit Beyers in half of his 10 lifetime starts, has reached the 105 plateau in his last three races, and is speedy and professional.

Last week, we bemoaned the state of the sprint division while considering the future prospects of the red-hot Canadian speedster Hollywood Hit. While Chief of Affairs has yet to match Hollywood Hit's exploits, he handles any going and must be considered when he is again tested in graded competition.